Los Angeles Preps: Gary Franklin

For Westchester coach Ed Azzam, the opponent didn’t matter.

For just about everyone else, however, it did.

So when Westchester defeated Mater Dei, 71-63, in a highly anticipated matchup of Southern California basketball powers Saturday night in the Division I regional final, it was a significant ripple on the Southland hoops landscape.

They are the top two teams in the state according to almost every ranking service and boast rosters filled with Division I college-bound players. And historically, the teams have combined for 12 state and 16 regional titles — among the most decorated of any in the state — yet this was the first time they had met with a berth in the state final on the line.

“It’s No. 1 vs. No.2 so this was the matchup everybody’s been waiting for all year,” said Westchester forward Dwayne Polee. “This means a lot.”

It also marked the first victory over Mater Dei in nine tries for Azzam, the veteran Westchester coach.

"Playing Mater Dei is great, it's a great win, it's good that we got to play them because it was a great crowd and great atmosphere for a state playoff game, but who we play is, honestly, irrelevant to me," Azzam said. "We're going to the state finals. That's what it means."

Westchester , which will play Newark Memorial next weekend at Rabobank arena in Bakersfield, had to sweat out that trip to the finals.

The Comets (31-3) had a 20-point lead after Polee slashed through the lane for a basket that gave his team a 46-26 lead with 4:56 left in the third quarter. But the Monarchs (32-2) rallied.

Tyler Lamb and Gary Franklin led a charge late in the third quarter and Mater Dei pulled to within a point, 54-53, when Lamb made a free throw with 4:23 left. The Monarchs, however, went cold after that, making only three of 12 field-goal attempts in the final three minutes.

Westchester made eight of 14 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

“We don’t break,” said Polee, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds — eight points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter. “There was no panic. We knew we just had to slow down and play our game instead of their game."

Mater Dei was ultimately done in by poor shooting. The Monarchs shot 34.9 percent for the game, including five of 29 (17.2 percent) on three-point attempts.

“We didn’t help ourselves,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. “We were very individualistic in the first half, especially. We shot way too many threes. You wouldn’t know we had a game plan this week. … You shoot 17 percent on threes, you’re going to have a problem.

Another problem was 6-foot-9 Westchester center Reggie Murphy. He had 14 points and 14 rebounds and Mater Dei had no answer for him.

“Murphy was a big body down there,” McKnight said.

Jordin Mayes, headed for Arizona, had 21 points despite sitting significant minutes in the third quarter because of foul trouble. He had 14 of his 21 in the first half and made a clutch three-point basket that virtually ended Mater Dei's rally and gave Westchester a 59-54 lead with 2:55 to play

Lamb did his best to get the Monarchs a victory. He turned in the type of performance you’d expect from a star headed for UCLA with 32 points, 14 rebounds and four steals and played all but 11 seconds of the game.

But the rest of the Monarchs made only nine of 29 shots from the field.

“We took a lot of bad shots,” said Franklin, the California-bound guard who had 18 points, but made only one of 10 three-point attempts.

LA South & Orange County:
Video, Westchester-Mater Dei reaction

March, 20, 2010
Westchester coach Ed Azzam had failed to beat Mater Dei eight consecutive times when facing Monarchs coach Gary McKnight, but that streak ended Saturday when the Comets topped Mater Dei, 71-63, in the Division I Southern California regional finals held at the Galen Center. But Azzam focused on his team's demonstrated poise when talking to the media postgame:

Comets guard Dwayne Polee had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead Westchester, but also made news in the fourth quarter when he was called for a technical foul after hanging on the rim following a dramatic dunk. Polee addressed that and the significance of the victory:

Meanwhile, Mater Dei guard Gary Franklin, headed to Cal, couldn't get his shots to fall consistently for the Monarchs. While Franklin did score 18 points, he shot one of 10 from the 3-point line and five of 18 overall. He talked about feeding the ball to his teammates, Polee's success, and stomaching the loss:

Monarchs guard Tyler Lamb, a UCLA signee, was the undisputed star of the game, with a game-high 32 points, 14 rebounds and four steals. But with Mater Dei trailing down the stretch, Lamb didn't get as many looks at the basket as he had earlier in the game. He said it didn't bother him:

Dwayne Polee had eight points in the third quarter to lift Westchester to a 51-41 lead over Santa Ana Mater Dei with a quarter to play in the Southern California Division I regional at the Galen Center.

Westchester opened a 20-point lead, 46-26, midway through the quarter, but the Monarchs would not fold, using a 12-3 run to get back in the game.

Gary Franklin, who made only one of 10 shots in the first half, had seven points in the third quarter, including the last six Mater Dei points.
The game is almost upon us, but the showdown for Southern California basketball supremacy between Santa Ana Mater Dei and Westchester can’t come soon enough for high school basketball fans, who have been waiting a long time for the clash of the Southland titans.

How long? Try forever.

When top-seeded Mater Dei and No. 2 Westchester take the court in the Southern California Division I regional final Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the Galen Center, it will be a highly-anticipated clash between what many consider the top two teams in the state.

It will also be the first time the teams, which have a combined 12 state titles and 16 regional championships, have ever met in a regional final.

“Hard to believe, but it’s true,” Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said.

They have met eight times in tournaments and early-round regional action since McKnight became coach in 1982 and Mater Dei has won all eight of those games--including a 91-89, double-overtime victory in the 2006 Nike Extravaganza the last time they met.

But never before has a trip to the state final been at stake when the powerhouses have met and fans aren’t the only ones who can’t wait.

“As much as we try not to think about it, all year we’ve been hearing talk about Mater Dei and Westchester, Mater Dei and Westchester,” said Mater Dei guard Tyler Lamb. “So now that it’s finally here, it’s like, we’ve been anticipating it for so long—not looking past the teams we’ve been playing, but just having that thought in the back of our head. So now it’s here and I know all my guys are excited.”

Part of the reason they have never met in a regional final is because from 2002-2008, the state used enrollment-based divisions and Mater Dei was bumped down to Division II. It just so happened that Westchester emerged as a state power during that time, winning state titles in 2002, ’03 and ’05.

Mater Dei returned to Division I last year, and the two were on a collision course for the regional final, but top-seeded Mater Dei was upset at home by Fairfax. Westchester went on to win the state title.

“It’s been hard not to think about Mater Dei,” said Westchester forward Dwayne Polee. “A lot of people want to see that game. We just hope we can keep the momentum we’ve had throughout the playoffs.”

The teams might not have met since 2006, but the players know each other well. Many of them play with and against each other in summer leagues.

Westchester (30-3), with Arizona-bound Jordin Mayes and uncommitted, but highly-recruited Division I prospects Polee and Reggie Murphy, has relied on a suffocating defense that is giving up only 50 points a game during its current playoff run and has won its seven playoff games by an average of 24.6 points.

Mater Dei (32-1) boasts a lineup loaded with Pac-10 recruits Lamb (UCLA), Gary Franklin (California) and Keala King (Arizona State) and is averaging 85.6 points in its seven playoff games.

So who will prevail?

“Westchester,” said Woodland Hills Taft Coach Derrick Taylor, whose team lost to Westchester, 70-60, in the City Section final and to Mater Dei, 75-73, in the regional semifinal.

“Westchester can defend a little better. Points are going to be hard to come by against Westchester. [Mater Dei] shot 50% against us. They won’t do that against Westchester. They are simply one of the most dominant defensive teams I’ve ever played against.”

That much will be determined Saturday night. What’s already known is that it’s been a long time since a high school game has been so highly anticipated.

“It’s a classic high school matchup,” Westchester Coach Ed Azzam said. “It’s two of the most decorated teams of the last decade. It’s Southern Section versus City Section.”

And, with Mater Dei ranked No. 1 in the state and Westchester No. 2 by virtually every ranking service, it’s pretty much for all the marbles.

SANTA ANA -- Tyler Lamb scored 21 points, including a crucial three-point shot down the stretch, and Mater Dei managed to avoid the last-second heroics that Woodland Hills Taft utilized for victories against its last two opponents in a 75-73 Mater Dei victory in a Division I regional semifinal Saturday night at Mater Dei.

Lamb's three-pointer with a 1 minute 20 seconds to play, gave Mater Dei a 72-68 lead -- matching its largest lead of the game in back-and-forth battle between two of the top teams in the state. A Katin Reinhardt layup gave Mater Dei a 74-69 lead with 29 seconds to play, but back came the Torreadors, who won both of their state playoff games in the last seconds.

Bryce Jones, whose three-pointer at the buzzer beat Lawndale Leuzinger on Thursday, made two free throws and a three-point basket in the final 20 seconds to get the Toreadors within two points, 75-73. Mater Dei's Gary Franklin then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2.4 seconds to play and DeAndre Daniels grabbed the rebound.

Daniels, who had 17 points and eight rebounds, dribbled twice to near mid court and heaved a desperation shot that hit the backboard but wasn't close and sent top-seeded Mater Dei (32-1) to a much-anticipated regional semifinal meeting with No. 2 Westchester.

"That was a long five seconds," Lamb said afterward. "I was just thinking, 'Please don't let them make a lucky shot to win.' "

Taft (26-5) used hot shooting to take early control, making five of six three-pointers in the first quarter and had a 39-35 halftime lead. But Mater Dei, which had nine first-half turnovers, had only one in the fourth quarter.

"They have a lot of guys who can make plays," Taft Coach Derrick Taylor said. "It just came down to who would make the plays at the end and they did."

Orange County & Inland Empire:
Mater Dei takes quick step in right direction

March, 11, 2010
SANTA ANA -- The modus operandi the past two games hadn't been to their liking, and maybe Mater Dei's start on Thursday against Moreno Valley Rancho Verde wasn't spectacular, but it was certainly a crossover in the right direction.

After slow starts in the Southern Section 1AA finals and the first round of the Southern California Regional, Mater Dei took control of the first quarter and never looked back in an 80-48 second-round victory over the visiting Mustangs.

Rancho Verde (27-5) didn't help itself. The Mustangs were only seven of 25 from the field in the first half, one of 13 from beyond the three-point arc. Meanwhile, Mater Dei was 17 of 30 as it built a commanding 41-20 lead.

Keala King (Arizona State), Tyler Lamb (UCLA) and Gary Franklin (California) led the way for Mater Dei (31-1), which will play host to Woodland Hills Taft (26-5) on Saturday in the regional semifinals.

King closed the first quarter with a dunk and breakaway layup at the buzzer that gave Mater Dei a 15-7 lead. Franklin's three-pointer and Katin Reinhardt's putback in the first minute of the second quarter made it 20-7 as it put together a 14-0 run.

“When we're running and gunning and hitting threes, that kills teams,” said Lamb, who scored 21 on eight-for-14 shooting, and had nine rebounds and five assists.

Rancho Verde went 5:38 without a field goal, and by the time Jordan Grace scored off a rebound, Mater Dei had extended its lead to 32-11.

At that point, it was essentially over, especially with Mater Dei shooting 50 percent for the game (32 of 63).

“I was pretty happy with the way the guys played,” said Gary McKnight, Mater Dei's coach. “We shared the ball really well.

“We've had a lot of good talks this week.”

Those talks were certainly one-sided, and they were designed to get the Monarchs back on track. When they played Rancho Verde in the section semifinals, they got off to a 32-14 lead but hadn't had that kind of start since. The Monarchs, ranked No. 7 in the nation by ESPN Rise, barely beat Rancho Cucamonga Etiwanda, 68-65, in the section finals.

King scored 23 on nine-for-15 shooting with 14 rebounds, and Franklin scored 16 on six-for-10 shooting and six assists.

Rancho Verde made only 16 of 56 shots. Kyle Fuller (Vanderbilt), who averages 26 points, scored a team-high 18 against Franklin but was 0 for 10 from the three-point line. He was eight for eight from the free-throw line.

The Mustangs were three of 27 from beyond the arc.

“Tonight was definitely an improvement,” Lamb said, “but there's still room for improvement.”

Orange County & Inland Empire:
Mater Dei in control of Rancho Verde

March, 11, 2010
SANTA ANA -- The top-seeded Mater Dei boys team is well on its way to a Southern California Regional semifinal on Saturday. The Monarchs hold a commanding 41-20 lead over Moreno Valley Rancho Verde at halftime.

Tyler Lamb has 16 points at the break. Keala King (11 points) closed the first quarter with a dunk and breakaway layup at the buzzer that gave Mater Dei a 15-7 lead. Gary Franklin's three-pointer and Katin Reinhardt's putback in the first minute of the second quarter made it 20-7 and the Monarchs were in high gear. It was the front half of a 14-0 run.

Rancho Verde went 5:38 without a field goal, and by the time Jordan Grace scored off a rebound, Mater Dei had extended the margin to 32-11. Mater Dei made 17 of 30 shots from the field.

Sonny Reese has scored seven for the Mustangs.

Mater Dei beat Rancho Verde in the Southern Section 1AA semifinals, 94-58.

LA South, LA North, Inland Empire:
Crabbe & Co. are marked men

March, 11, 2010
Allen Crabbe didn’t receive much, if any, recognition over the course of the season. And you get the funny feeling that the 6-foot-6 senior shooting guard for the Los Angeles Price boys’ basketball team wouldn’t have had things any other way.

His days of flying underneath the radar, however, have come to an end.

An abrupt end, mind you.

A breakout effort during the Southern Section playoffs put him on the map. Crabbe is a marked man these days, whether he likes it or not, and figures to receive plenty attention when the Knights (30-3) face visiting Westlake Village Oaks Christian (20-9) in tonight’s Division IV quarterfinal game of the Southern California Regional playoffs at 7 p.m.

“Oh yeah, we know about him,’’ Oaks Christian coach Tom Roanhaus said of Crabbe, who‘s averaging more than 20 points per game this season on close to 50 percent shooting from the field. “He’s one of those kids that plays big in big games.’’

“We’ve scouted him plenty. The ball is going to be in his hands a lot. He creates for himself and his teammates. We’ve played against some quality teams, quality players this season, so it will be interesting to see how we measure up to him and Price.’’

The fact that Crabbe has gone about his business relatively quietly shouldn’t come as major surprise, not when you consider that most of the country had its eyes fixated on California counterparts such Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Tyler Lamb, Gary Franklin and Keala King.

All signs point to Crabbe being perfectly fine with the nation’s top college coaches and scouts focusing their collective concentration on Huntington Beach Ocean View’s Anthony Brown, Westchester’s Dwayne Polee and Woodland Hills Taft‘s DeAndre Daniels.

“We have plenty of good, talented players on this team , but Allen is our go-to-guy, he‘s a Division I player,’’ Price coach Mike Lynch said earlier in the season.

Indeed, he is. Cal realized his immense potential early on and Golden Bears coach Mike Montgomery, and the rest of his staff, landed a commitment from Crabbe a while ago.

A number of Pac-10 Conference programs, most notably UCLA and USC, made a late run for him after seeing what he was capable of. His tremendous upside is undeniable.

But ultimately, it was too little, too late.

When it comes to receiving some recognition, it’s never too little, too late. And in Crabbe’s case, the attention is not only warranted, it’s long overdue.

Orange County & Inland Empire:
Mater Dei hoping history repeats itself

March, 10, 2010
For a double dose of basketball – there's nothing like stretching the value of a dollar these days – Mater Dei will play host to two games on Thursday, the nationally ranked girls at 6 p.m., and the nationally ranked boys at 7:30.

History says it will be a good night for the Monarchs.

The top-seeded boys, ranked No. 7 in the nation by ESPN Rise, take on Moreno Valley Rancho Verde for the second time in two weeks. Mater Dei (30-1) defeated Rancho Verde (27-4) in the Southern Section Division 1AA semifinals, 94-58. Keala King led the way with 23 points, Tyler Lamb had 21and Gary Franklin 18 as the Monarchs took a 32-14 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.

The second-seeded girls' team is ranked No. 4 in the nation and dominated the section Division 2A playoffs. They take on Villa Park (25-7), the runner-up to Brea Olinda in Division 2AA. Although they didn't play this season, Mater Dei (28-1) easily beat the Spartans in last year's playoffs, 74-24.

Brea, ranked No. 3 nationally, dominated Villa Park, 63-38. If Villa Park hopes to make amends against a different national-caliber opponent, it will have to shoot better than the 22 percent it did against Brea's oppressive defense. The problem is that Mater Dei 's defense can be just as tough: It beat Woodbridge, 71-29, in the section finals. Woodbridge beat Villa Park in December, 47-46.

Behind junior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and sophomore Jordan Adams, two of the best players in the nation for their grade levels, Mater Dei has hardly been challenged in its 11 victories since losing to Brea, 47-43, on Jan. 18: Only four times have the Monarchs won by fewer than 29 points, and only once by fewer than 12 points, a 59-50 victory over Norco in the section quarterfinals.
ANAHEIM -- Mater Dei had that sinking feeling in the Southern Section Division IAA boys' final Saturday night, one that arises from losing in the championship game the last three seasons.

But the Monarchs remembered who they represent, where they came from and how hard they've worked to get here. Then they did what they needed to do, outplayed Etiwanda down the stretch and emerged with a 68-65 victory at the Honda Center.

"It's a burden off our shoulders," said senior guard Gary Franklin, who scored 21 points.

The turning point came in the final 20 seconds, when Mater Dei tightened up its defense while leading by a point and forced the Eagles deep into the shock clock. Jordan Daniels was forced to heave a long three-point attempt that didn't draw iron, the Monarchs rebounded and David Brown made two free throws on the other end with 5.2 seconds remaining, giving them their final three-point margin.

"I wish I would have called a timeout there and got the kids more organized," said Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner.

He did call a timeout after Brown's free throws, but all Etiwanda could muster was a lengh-of-the-floor pass that was stripped away by the Monarchs at the buzzer.

Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight credited his seniors with willing the Monarchs to the victory and ending the three-game losing streak in the section finals. In addition to Franklin's contributions, senior guard Tyler Lamb scored a game-high 22 points for Mater Dei.

"They just did not want to end this game without winning it," McKnight said.

Byron Wesley scored 18 points to lead Etiwanda, Tyler La Cour had 16 and Aaron Crockett 14.